Foods from France and Italy are my favorites to make. The flavors suit me and the wines to go with are delicious but the idea behind the flavors is what draws me most. Use the best of what’s available: the freshest, the ripest, the just-picked, the what’s-from-here.
I’ve started pursuing this philosophy in my kitchen. Foods I grow, those available at the year-round farmer’s market and those produced within my state are what I try to stock my fridge and pantry with. It made sense to me to eat food handled and processed as little as possible by anyone other than myself. The tomato should taste like a tomato. The jalapeño should have some heat. The zucchini need not be of a perfect uniform size. Crunchy salads containing a variety of greens, both bitter and sweet, can exist.
Just because I can buy broccoli at the store in February doesn’t mean I need to. Farmer’s markets will supply foods that grow here, regardless of how desirable those foods are to the general food-buying masses. This year I used rutabagas and celery root for the first time. I grew and braised radicchio Treviso. I’ve become addicted to all forms of kale and raab (rapini). Foods I’ve never really wanted to try I did because they were available.
I can also procure grass-fed, organic beef, chicken, pork and eggs; 7-8 different varieties of potatoes; wild-caught salmon; sustainably raised shellfish; cheese from several local artisans; the best dried mix of foraged mushrooms I’ve ever used; beautiful wheat and emmer farro berries; seasonally: chiles, tomatoes and several varieties of apples; locally produced milk, amazing cinnamon rolls, jarred pickled veggies and kombucha, all at one place on a Saturday morning.
There will probably always be things I buy from elsewhere. We can’t grow olive trees where I live and locally made parmesan can’t hold a candle to the Parmesano Reggiano from Italy. When I read a recipe though, I look for how I can make the dish using what is available to me locally. It increases my sense of place and, really, makes me feel more human.